The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is to launch a nationwide deployment and use of virtual court proceedings in Nigeria’s correctional centres.
The AGF’s spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, said in a statement on Friday that the minister would “launch the pilot project for the deployment and use (of) Virtual Court Sitting facilities at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja on Monday, December 6, 2021.”
Mr Gwandu explained further:, “The development is part of the process to implement the Post-Covid-19 Justice Sector Plan marshaled out by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in April, 2020”.
The statement added, “The Secretary of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion, Leticia Ayoola-Daniels working with the representative of the supporting organization; Mrs. Oyinye Ndubuisi of the UNDP are working assiduously to ensure achievement of the laudable project.”
This is coming more than a year after Mr Malami muted the idea in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown in April last year.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year, virtual court proceedings have gained traction in the Nigeria’s judicial system, due to the lockdown and other safety measures that restrict physical court sittings.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has also issued a virtual court sittings guidelines for various courts, many of whose chief judges have also issued practice directions to that effect.
Mr Gwandu further said on Friday that the initiative was one of the strategic interventions by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice “towards engendering lasting reforms in the Criminal Justice Sector in Nigeria.”
As a way of addressing the intractable delays in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, the statement said the Justice Ministry in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion, conceived the project to “expedite engagement with the Nigerian Correctional Centres to make it possible for evidence of suspects in custody to be taken without their physical presence in court to avoid disruptions.”
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service; Halilu Nababa as well as members of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion, are some of the dignitaries that are expected at the occasion.